It’s the most wonderful time of the year! While almost everyone decks the halls with a Christmas tree and festive decor, you might notice that some of your neighbors have brought their merriment outdoors, with lights on the porch and roof, inflatables, and other lawn decorations. Maybe you are the neighborhood Clark Griswold and have your own, 100,000-watt neon tribute to the holidays from the ridge of your roof to the end of the driveway. But when is too much holiday spirit… too much? When it comes to outdoor decor, it’s best to keep in mind some etiquette rules that will keep your neighbors from wanting to strangle you with a garland sash before 2020. 

Don’t put them up early or take them down late.

Although there are no laws mandating the length of “Christmastime” (unless you live in an HOA neighborhood), most agree that holiday lights and decorations should come out no earlier than Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving - and go back in the attic by mid-January at the latest. I personally take my decorations down on the closest weekend following the Epiphany (January 6th, or the 12th day of Christmas), but everyone has different feelings. If you are truly nutty about the holidays, feel free to put the Christmas tree up the second the last trick-or-treaters leave on October 31st/November 1st, but save the outdoor stuff for late November. 

Take your neighbors’ floorplan into consideration.

When stringing up lights, you should have a plan. Make sure that part of that planning includes not hanging lights right across from your neighbor’s bedroom window. You should always be considerate to the fact that your outdoor display might be a nuisance to others. The front of the house is generally fair game, but don’t be that guy who insists on decking out the backyard (unless it’s for a one-night Christmas party on the back porch). Also consider the brightness of your lights. The new LED strands are blue-white, which is especially blinding, and you don’t want your neighbor temporarily impaired when pulling out of the driveway. 

Don’t indirectly invite the whole city. 

Some neighborhoods are known for their elaborate light displays, to the point that visitors will pay by the car to drive through and sip cocoa as they appreciate the spectacle. Odds are, however, that if you are reading this, you don’t live in one of those places. In general, people like Christmas lights and driving around to look at them. It’s even a tradition in some families. And the larger and more gaudy your lights are, the more likely it is that your address will get passed around as a must-see stop on folks’ light tour. If this gets too crazy, your neighbors could be dealing with excessive traffic trying to get home after work, and that makes you the bad guy. 

Be the change you want to see in the world.

If you are on the opposite end of the holiday light debate and have a neighbor who goes nuts with wooden reindeer, multiple inflatable hula-dancing Santas, and enough lights to power Rhode Island, try to practice patience unless their display blocks visibility when you are pulling out or otherwise goes beyond a nuisance. It is in fact supposed to be a season of joy and goodwill towards your fellow man, so try not to harsh anyone else’s good time. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!